Monday, August 16, 2010

The Walk Score of LA's Best Transit

I've come to the end of my series on the Walk Scores of LA County's "premium transit network". I've written posts about the following lines over the past several days:

Blue Line
Green Line
Gold Line
Orange Line
Red/Purple Line

The Red/Purple line had the highest average walk score (93.1 - walker's paradise), followed by the Gold Line (79.5 - very walkable), the Blue Line (73.7 - very walkable), the Orange Line (70.9 - very walkable), and the Green Line (58.7 - somewhat walkable).

I'm about to show you the overall mean of all of the stations in these lines (calculated by averaging the stations themselves, not the means above). Then I'll highlight the stations with the five lowest scores. These should be a logical focus for improving the walkability of the network. Luckily, we have plenty of examples of stations with high scores too, so I'll list off the five highest as well, as possible examples to emulate.

The overall mean average Walk Score of all of the stations in the network is (drumroll please) . . .

77.3 out of 100 (very walkable, but not a walker's paradise)

The five (+1 because of a tie) stations with the lowest scores are:
Avalon -- Green Line -- 37 (car dependent)
Aviation/LAX -- Green Line -- 37 (car dependent)
Del Amo -- Blue Line -- 40 (car dependent)
De Soto -- Orange Line -- 45 (car dependent)
Harbor Freeway -- Green Line -- 48 (car dependent)
Lakewood -- Green Line -- 48 (car dependent)

The five (+3 because of a tie) stations with the highest scores are:
Pershing Square (north) -- Subway -- 100 (perfect score)
Wilshire/Vermont -- Subway -- 100 (perfect score)
Pershing Square (south) -- Subway -- 98 (walker's paradise)
7th Street/Metro Center (Flower) -- Subway & Blue Line -- 98 (walker's paradise)
7th Street/Metro Center (Hope) -- Subway & Blue Line -- 98 (walker's paradise)
Wilshire/Western -- Purple Line -- 98 (walker's paradise)
Memorial Park -- Gold Line -- 98 (walker's paradise)
Transit Mall -- Blue Line -- 98 (walker's paradise)

At the end of a day, you can pull data from a computer all you want, but if you want to understand the difference between these stations you have to go out to them, walk around them and think about them. There's a train or a bus waiting to take you.


  1. That shows that computer can only do so much. You've been to Pershing Square right? There is no way in hades they should get 100. Yeah you can walk it, but do you want to. Ok you got on one side and you have the urine, people asking for change, people trying to sell you drugs, guy harassing you, a toilet on the street where you always catch of view of someone right before they are going to take a leak (best case scenario, you know what the worse one is.

    Then on the North side of the street you have about a dozen people sleeping there and the taxi dance club which makes going through either sections if you're a woman delightful.

    100, no way Pershing Square should get 100 or in the 90s at all for walkable.

    7th and Metro again too high. I get yelled at once a week by some weirdo...though I understand how a computer would come up with this score, but buyer beware for sure on the walk score software.


  2. @Browne..I'm sure the walk score did not consider "mentality" score at each destination. That may be another variale worth adding to the program. Also, those things such as "mental", "poor", "crazy" people happen all too frequently around the world, not just LA. Your perceived notion is that it's here more in LA because less middle-class people walk the streets in LA compared to other cities. In other cities, the homeless, poor, and mental would be drowned out by their diversion of hundreds of other people they would approach.

  3. To me that's part of the walk score, if an area gets 100 I'm thinking that there is some type of expectation there wouldn't be an army of mentally unstable and drug dealers awaiting you at your destinaton I'm just going to assume that's the normal expectation.

    80 ok, but 100, well if you can't measure that then you shouldn't be given out 100s.

    Lets not try to act like this walking score software is advocacy. They are a product and they are being used to sell real estate, so since that's the point of this product, the product fails.

    If it were some university experiment, fine, but this products is something they are marketing to real estate agents/realtors, so they are going to need to up the game a bit.

    Come on every blogger is talking about this walking score so they have some money and influence behind them.


  4. I don't think the inventors are mainly about money. If you read their "what makes a walkable neighborhood" section it's basically talking about the things Jane Jacobs talked about, and she's my favorite author about planning ever.

    I think Walk Score is a form of advocacy for places that are dense and mix land uses. Those are the places that get high scores.

    I think it's a useful tool, but we shouldn't assume that it's the only thing you need to evaluate the walkability of an area. They actually have a section on their website about the shortcomings of the measurement and I recommend that people read it.

    It's not perfect, but it can be very helpful. I agree with it most of the time.

  5. "How It Doesn't Work: Known Issues With Walk Score"

    "We'll be the first to admit that Walk Score is just an approximation of walkability. There are a number of factors that contribute to walkability that are not part of our algorithm:

    * Street width and block length: Narrow streets slow down traffic. Short blocks provide more routes to the same destination and make it easier to take a direct route.
    * Street design: Sidewalks and safe crossings are essential to walkability. Appropriate automobile speeds, trees, and other features also help.
    * Safety from crime and crashes: How much crime is in the neighborhood? How many traffic accidents are there? Are streets well-lit?
    * Pedestrian-friendly community design: Are buildings close to the sidewalk with parking in back? Are destinations clustered together?
    * Topography: Hills can make walking difficult, especially if you're carrying groceries.
    * Freeways and bodies of water: Freeways can divide neighborhoods. Swimming is harder than walking.
    * Weather: In some places it's just too hot or cold to walk regularly.

    As MarlonBain said, "You should use the Web 3.0 app called going outside and investigating the world for yourself" before deciding whether a neighborhood is walkable!"

  6. From their site. This is their vision statement:

    Our Vision
    Our vision is for every property listing to read: Beds: 3 Baths: 2 Walk Score: 84. We want walkability and transportation costs to be a key part of choosing where to live.

    And to the question is the Walk Score is it advocacy or a product: They think it's a product.

    Our Products
    In addition to, we provide Walk Score on Your Site, which makes it easy to integrate Walk Score into your site

    Their case studies all have to do with real estate and real estate companies.

    They are a product. Their point is to make money. They don't care about people, they care about money. Walkability is the new hot thing, so they jumped on it. A good way to sell houses in this down economy.

    I'm sorry Chewie, but I'm always suspect of pseudo advocates that are in bed with real estate. This is how we got in this trouble in the first place. We let people who own the most property dictate what is and what is not valuable and if you think that certain things aren't looked at well look at the places that got the highest scores and the places that got the lowest scores and which places do you think has the most valuable real estate around it?

    Lakewood to me isn't that horrible. It's flat. It's safe. It takes awhile to get some place, but as a woman at night I would much rather get off at Lakewood than Pershing Square.


  7. If all of those things aren't being measured then what's the point of it. It's not really the walkabilty score it's really the how much crap is packed in close to the transit stop score. They should call it the density score.

    In LA high density normally comes with lots and lots of liquor stores, check cashing places, and bars. Neighborhoods like Los Feliz are rare. To me the Sunset Vermont stop should have gotten a higher score than the Pershing Square stop.

    Around Lakewood there is a nice school district, affordable houses, parks, I've walked past two preschools that I wouldn't mind dropping my child off at (if I had one,) it's easy to bicycle on the sidewalk (they need a bike lane,) but really nice cute community.

    Pershing Square if I had a two year old no way would I want to be around there, no childcare, no decent schools, no parks, just a bunch of bars and restaurants.

    So to me the question is what is valuable and what is not. What is valuable as a 25 year old single person is totally different than what is valuable to a 34 year old mom with a two year old.

    Lakewood to me is the more walkable neighborhood transit stop, you will need a bicycle, because the busses run horribly out there, but I think that would be a more preferable trade off to Pershing Square, but realtors aren't trying to move the Lakewood/Norwalk area.


  8. I don't see anything wrong with trying to influence how people choose where to live, or with realtors and apartment managers using Walk Score.

    As far as I can tell, everything Walk Score has to offer is free, and their website appears to be funded by ads.

    I'd say the product most people in America are being sold is neighborhoods where everything is really far away, so you drive (i.e. suburbia, "the American Dream"). I'd rather we be sold on neighborhoods where destinations are close, before we clusterfuck the environment into a climatepocalypse.

  9. Well then....using your logic Browne....New York would score in the 10s and 20s at nearly every stop in the city and do 80s and above in the Long Island area...where there is no walkability or reason to "be there". Sorry, doesn't make sense. I understand where you are coming from; but using that logic, the usability of this website will be worthless.

    I can imagine the comments now. "WTF....Hobokon station in New Jersey is more walkable than Times Square station??? But they actually close Times Square for pedestrians...not Hobokon!"

  10. Oh, man, I've actually been to Hoboken. I'd say it's pretty walkable too :)

    Crime and perception of safety are really important for walkability. My belief is as long as destinations are far away, most people will drive. Unless stuff is close, you don't have a fighting chance at getting a critical mass of people walking (which makes things safer).

    I'm not saying stuff can't be done to improve the area around Pershing Square, and I'm not against day care being part of the land use mix (not at all).

    I just don't want to blame downtown LA for the fact that everybody decided to make it the place where homeless services would be concentrated. I favor dispersing those services so that Beverly Hills is as likely to get a shelter as Watts, it's just that that doesn't actually happen because rich people usually have the clout to be more effective NIMBYs.

  11. Trying to compare NY to LA is a very bad idea. I think this site probably was made by someone on the East Coast ad in a major city. In NY density meant life in LA it means something scarily different.

    It's just not a good true walk score for Los Angeles, it's too many things they don't measure that are important in Los Angeles.

    I'm not even judging downtown LA or saying it's bad, but I'm judging this product, because in LA it's an almost useless product for current daily plans it may be a good product for looking at potential further development.

    Ok downtown LA has lots of density, ok, lets make that density more family friendly by adding some things that people need and improving the schools. If there is a place with less density then maybe that's not a place you want to look at for further development OR maybe that is an area you want to look at. Maybe Lakewood and Norwalk needs some more stores, restaurants and maybe should look into some federal funding to make that happen.

    If used properly with some vision it could be a useful too, but we know that won't happen.